Thursday, June 1, 2017

How a Moment in my CFY Almost Broke Me, and what I Learned from it

I'd be lying if I said there were times during my CFY that I didn't want to quit, throw in the towel, run home crying, and open a yarn store pretending to know nothing at all about speech or language. Don't get me wrong, I had some great moments during that year.  I met two of my best friends, joined a tight-knit speech department, started the process of becoming PROMPT certified, gained a mentor, learned how to use an otoscope, solidified my bilingualism, gained confidence in who I was, and gained a vision of who I could become.  Despite all of the incredible moments, there was one low point that stands out to me when I think back upon that year.  Five years later, I'm ready to share this with CFYs who may be about to start the journey, are mid-way through, or who are nearing the finish line.

I started my clinical fellowship in July of 2012 after landing a job at my dream location.  I was in SLP heaven.  Come November, however, I received a somewhat needed wake up call.  I was called into a meeting to find out that one of my favorite student's families had made a request to the school that their child be removed from my caseload.  They believed I was just too young and too inexperienced to work with their child.  I was crushed and couldn't help thinking: but what about that stellar communication notebook I had put my heart and soul into, sent home every single day with notes from the day, activities to be completed at home, and pictures of their child engaged in an activity? What about the rapport I had built with my student who initially refused to transition through the hall with me but now bounded towards me when I opened their classroom door? But what about the relationship I thought I had built with her mother, her father, her aunts, and her grandmother? And what about the frequent phone calls, emails, and invitations to come and participate in a session?  None of it seemed to matter anymore, and I felt like a failure in every sense of the word.

So, what did I do?

Well, after texting my mom and boyfriend (now husband) about how terrible of a therapist I must be, I went to speak with my supervisor in private.  This saint of a woman reassured me that she had spoken with my student's family and told them that I was qualified, motivated, and a wonderful match for their child.  She told them that she had observed me with their student and that my compassion and understanding for her individual needs was above all expectations.  Lastly, she told them that she would like to leave their child on my caseload for the remainder of the year, with the possibility of discussing any lingering concerns again in the summer in anticipation for the following school year.
Thankfully, the family agreed.

That August, and for the next three Augusts, the family requested me as their child's speech-language pathologist.

So, what did I learn?

Build a strong relationship with your speech supervisor and accept any observations or feedback that she offers to you.  Why?  If you do so, and she is as incredible and awesome as mine was, she'll have your back in times of need.

Be in frequent contact with your students' families. Invite them in, let them know progress and concerns. Send home activities to promote carryover skills. Why?  If you wind up in the same situation that I did, you will be able to honestly and confidently tell your supervisor that you did all you could to try and build rapport and collaborate with the family. They won't be able to say that they did not have communication with you.

Don't take everything so personally.  This family did not ask to have their child removed because of poor therapy or lack of progress.  Understand and respect that they were advocating for their child in the best way they knew how and that they were acting out of fear.  Fear of their child's future and fear of not knowing exactly what they should be requesting in terms of a therapist.  To them, most experienced meant best.  If this happens to you, remember that it is not a personal attack on you as a therapist.

...And when in doubt, hit up your good friends Ben and Jerry for some emotional support.

*Special thanks to Lisa Bloechle for always having my back <3


  1. If you buy an otoscope online (allhearts has them) It's pretty easy to tell if the ear is infected by looking. I bought one for my son because we were constantly taking him in. Buy Now at